A former Managing Director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Richard Aisuebeogun, said Nigeria and Africa need to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to boost air transport in the region. Aisuebeogun, who spoke to New Telegraph at the weekend, said that it had become easier for airlines to grow in Africa, just like what is obtained in the entire continent of Europe, with the policy signed by 52 African countries.
His words: “There is virtually no part of Europe that you cannot fly into from one particular spot because you have airlines cris-crossing the entire continent of Europe. We know that is not the case in Africa. I don’t want to go deep into that. We have talked about it for over 30 years. The challenge of flying across Africa is a major challenge.
If we find it as a major challenge to fly across Africa or within Africa via intra-Africa transport system, then, you can imagine how it is going to limit the economic development of the region. “I keep saying that in all the interviews I have granted and in my presentations in the last two years.
We need to have citizens travel cards that enable us to go to South Africa, Banjul, Nairobi, Cairo without any limitations for legitimate reasons to do business that will engender economic growth of Africa and its citizens, business that will create wealth, business that will reduce poverty, business that will reduce unemployment and that is what Africa Continental Free Trade would do and I keep saying it that this can only be successful when we have SAATM to complement,” he added.
The air transport specialist described AfCFTA as the greatest initiative that has come out of the Africa Union, urging leaders in Africa to drive this initiative as they did with the Yamoussoukro Decision, Cape Town Convention and the Banjul Accord.
All of these accords, he reiterated, were meant to drive air transport, not just in the West African sub-region, but in the entire African continent, noting that each of these accords was germaine on its own point on the platform that looks at the initiative of the region as whole.
The continent has taken the bull by the horn by setting up the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM), warning that any country that fails to embrace this certainly does not want air transport growth in its own part of Africa, noting that Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement is implemented across Africa.
“I am a very optimist pan- Africa air transport specialist and I believe that the only way we can compete with the best of Europe and the rest of Asia as it is today is for us to have a Single Africa Air Transport Market driven by the Continental Free Trade Agreement where you have a common Customs border and possibly common currency. “We are still not talking about that.
We should have common passports across Africa. As a matter of fact, I am saying that in the regions of Africa, there should be one passport. I am an ECOWAS citizen, I should have an ECOWAS card and I should be able to go all the way from Nigeria to Cape Verde in the South Atlantic Ocean after Senegal,” he noted.
The African Union’s recent actions of putting into place an African Continental Free Trade Area – AfCFTA and the Single African Air Transport Market – SAATM – are giant steps towards recognising the over 1.3 billion inhabitants in the continent as one people, one market, one geographical space and one nation, provided Africans see and reason into this together.
According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Continental Free Trade Area goes beyond free trade in a broader sphere to establish free movement and investments across Africa.